Sunday, 11 February 2018

Balfour Deklerasyonu: Dünya Siyonist Hareketi ve I. Dünya Savaşı


Dengeyi bozmak için Amerika'nın insan gücü kaynaklarına ve savaş makinelerine ihtiyaç vardı. Fakat ABD’nin II. Dünya Savaşı’na müdahale tarzında olacağı gibi, Amerikalılar, kurucu babalarının uzunca bir süre yerine getirilen tavsiyeleri nedeniyle “yabancıların çapraşık işlerine” bulaşmak konusunda son derece temkinli idiler. Dünya Siyonizminin liderlerinin konuya girdiği yer de burasıydı!

Yalnızca nispeten az sayıdaki tarihçi, Britanya'nın Birinci Dünya Savaşı'nı kaybetmeye çok yaklaştığını kabul eder.

Fransız topraklarındaki kilitlenmiş kara savaşlarında gençlerin yoğun bir şekilde kaybedilmesi ulusal güç ve maneviyatını çarçur etmişse de, Britanya'nın kaderi belli bir süre kaygı verici şekilde açık denizlerdeki savaşın gelişimine bağımlı kalmıştır. Bu, Lord Nelson'ın zaferi döneminden bu yana denizleri buyurgan bir şekilde yöneten İngiliz donanmasının müthiş gücündeki bir azalmadan kaynaklanmıyordu.

1914 Kasımında Şili kıyıları açıklarındaki yenilginin hemen sonrasındaki ay Falkland Muharebesi'nde intikamı alınmıştı. Alman Deniz Filosu 1916'daki efsanevi Jutland Savaşı'nda Kraliyet Donanmasına ağır kayıplar vermesine karşın, Alman Deniz Kuvvetleri Baltık Denizi'ndeki kendi limanlarının dışında İngilizlerle karşı karşıya gelmek gibi bir riske girmediği için sonuç temel olarak bir beraberlik şeklinde değerlendirilebilirdi. Denizdeki sorun, İngiliz yük taşımacılığında devasa kayıplar yaratan Alman U-Boat* savaşı ile ilgiliydi. Yalnızca bir ada ülkesi, teslim olmadan önce bu kadar uzun dayanabilirdi.

Bu, 1917'de Britanya Deniz Kuvvetleri Komutanlığı tarafından politik üstlerine iletilen bir uyarıydı.

Dengeyi bozmak için Amerika'nın insan gücü kaynaklarına ve savaş makinelerine ihtiyaç vardı. Fakat ABD'nin II. Dünya Savaşı'na müdahale tarzında olacağı gibi, Amerikalılar, kurucu babalarının uzunca bir süre yerine getirilen tavsiyeleri nedeniyle “yabancıların çapraşık işlerine” bulaşmak konusunda son derece temkinli idiler.

Dünya Siyonizminin liderlerinin konuya girdiği yer de burasıydı!...

Çok basit bir pazarlık vardı: Eğer Chaim Weizmann gibi Yahudi liderler Amerika'daki Yahudi Diasporasına çağrıda bulunarak, ümitsiz durumdaki savaşı kurtarmak için nüfuzlarını ABD'yi savaşa girmeye ikna etmekte kullanırlarsa, o zaman da Britanya Siyonistlerin Filistin'de Yahudi devleti kurma rüyasının gerçekleşmesini sağlamak için elinden geleni yapacaktı.

Balfour Deklarasyonu bu pazarlığın bir parçasıydı.

Winston Churchill, 1937 yılı Temmuz ayında Avam Kamarasına yaptığı açıklamada bunu itiraf etti: Bunu, bir haçlı seferi hevesiyle ya da donkişotvari bir hayırseverlikle yapılan bir eylem gibi ibaret görmek yanıltıcı olacaktır. Tam tersine, bu, beklediğimiz ve aldığımız değerli ve önemli destek için, Müttefiklerin genel zaferine katkıda bulunma gayesiyle bilinçli olarak alınmış bir tedbirdi.

Pazarlık konusundaki diğer kanıt Churchill ile dünya Siyonist hareketinin önde gelen lideri Chaim Weizmann arasındaki yazışmalarda bulunuyor. Churchill'e gönderdiği 10 Eylül 1941 tarihli bir mektubunda Weizmann, bir yandan "Adolf Hitler'e karşı ismimizi ve bayrağımızı taşıyacak” bir “Yahudi savaş gücü” kurması için yalvarırken, diğer yandan da şunları belirtiyordu: Son savaşta Amerika'da Büyük Britanya lehine sonuç çıkması için etkin bir şekilde yardımcı olanın Yahudiler olduğu hususu İngiliz devlet adamlarınca defalarca kabul edilmiştir. Onlar (Yahudiler) bunu yapma konusunda istekliler ve tekrar yapabilirler.

Balfour Deklerasyonu, en sonunda 1948'de İsrail Devletinin ilanıyla sonuçlanan yolda Siyonistlerin rol oynadığı birçok pazarlıktan birisiydi. Bir diğeri, 1930'larda yapılan tartışmalı Haavara Anlaşması (Transfer-Nakil Anlaşması) idi.

İsrail doğmadan önce, herhangi bir kısıtlama olmaksızın Yahudilerin Filistin'e göçüne izin vermesi için mandater konumdaki Britanya'ya karşı Filistin merkezli Yahudi Ajansının uğraşları, Irgun ve Lehi Örgütlerinin İngiliz ve Arap hedeflerine karşı yürüttüğü bombalı saldırılar ve suikastlar, Birleşmiş Milletler Taksim Planı ve Arap ordularına karşı savaş olacaktı.

Günümüzde Ermeniler, tarihi topraklarının büyük bölümüne yayılan bir Ermeni devletinin kurulmamış olması nedeniyle Batılı güçlerin "ihanetinden” dolayı şikâyet etmekte; Kürtler de 1920 Sevr Antlaşmasıyla verilen vatan vaadinin tutulmamış olması nedeniyle benzer şekilde kendilerini “ihanete uğramış” hissetmektedir. Fakat 1934'te Joseph Stalin'in gözetiminde Yahudi anavatanı olarak idari başkenti Birobidzhan olan bir Yahudi Özerk Bölgesinin SSCB'de kurulmuş olduğundan çok az kişi haberdardır. Bu Özerk Bölge, çok küçük bir Yahudi nüfusa sahip olsa da hâlâ mevcuttur.

Bu arada İsrail devlet oluşunun 70. yıldönümüne yaklaşmaktadır. Balfour Deklarasyonu, ondan yirmi yıl önce Theodor Herzl'ın Basel Kongresi sonrasında alay konusu olmamak için günlüğünü kaleme alırken temkinli davranmasına neden olan bir Yahudi devleti fikrini kamuoyunun gündemine getirmiştir. Herzl, 3 Eylül 1897'de şunları yazmıştır: “Eğer bugün bunu yüksek sesle dile getirseydim dünya çapında kahkahayla karşılanacaktım. Ancak belki beş yılda ama kesinlikle elli yıl içinde herkes bu fikri kabullenmiş olacak.”

Lord Arthur Balfour'un Lord Walter Rothschild'e yaptığı deklarasyon, o sırada Britanya Osmanlı hükümdarlarının ardından Filistin'i henüz kontrolü altına almamış olduğu için sorunluydu. Ancak tüm bunlardan daha sorunlu olan şey, böyle bir vaadin "(Filistin'de) mevcut Yahudi olmayan toplulukların sivil ve dini haklarına halel getirmeyeceğine” ilişkin şerhti.

Siyonistlerin Eretz Yisrael** olarak adlandırdıkları topraklardaki köylerde, kasabalarda ve şehirlerde yüzlerce yıldır yaşayan Filistin Araplarının bir yandan kendilerine ait bir devlet kurmaları sürekli olarak engellenmişken bir yandan da işgal ve mülksüzleştirmeye tabi tutulması, Balfour'un bu şartının karşılanmadığının kesin kanıtıdır.

Sonuçta Yahudiler Filistin'de bir ulus yarattılar; ancak bu, Filistin'in yerli Müslüman ve Hristiyan Arap sakinlerine karşı kaçınılmaz bir haksızlık oluşturdu.

(*): U-bot Almancada denizaltı anlamına gelen, ancak diğer bazı dillerde Alman deniz kuvvetlerince kullanılan denizaltıları ifade eder. I. ve II. Dünya Savaşları sırasında kullanılmışlardır.

(**): İsrail Toprağı

Çeviri: Emir Aşnas

© Adeyinka Makinde (2017)

Adeyinka Makinde, Londra, İngiltere.


Monday, 29 January 2018

Boxers and Mobsters - Frankie DePaula and John DiGilio


Frankie DePaula (left) and John DiGilio

In North New Jersey, most of the Mafiosi owed allegiance to the Genovese, the family which traced a direct line to Luciano himself, and before Luciano to Guiseppe ‘Joe the Boss’ Masseria, one of the so-called antiquated heads known as the ‘Moustache Petes’ whom Luciano contrived to eliminate and pave the way for the modern Mafia with its ruling national commission.

It was written after his shooting that long before he made it to the Garden, Frankie had developed “cherished friendships in the high society of the Jersey City streets” particularly, it was alleged, among the “soldiers and followers” of Joseph Zicarelli. The local ‘wise guys’ could always make good use of the neighbouhood toughs and none came tougher than Frankie. Most of the gangsters who featured in Frankie’s life were Genovese. The Moscato, from the Mount Carmel area of the city, were suspected of doing a lot of dirty jobs for the ‘big boys’, and frequently came around the pool hall looking for Frankie. Even Frankie appeared to be cautious of them. Another figure with whom Frankie dallied was John DiGilio. DiGillio, an ex-middleweight boxer, was in charge of the Hudson County Genovese crew which in turn was under the overall command of Bobby Manna. He would remain an important figure within the Genovese power structure until his decomposing body was discovered in 1988 in a mortician’s bag floating in the Hackensack River. Two bullets were lodged behind an ear. DiGilio, who was based in Bayonne, specialized in many things including loan sharking; an activity for which he was facing a sentence at the time of his demise. One Jersey City native  who borrowed $111 from DiGilio ended up paying him back $3,000. A person who missed a payment would have to pay a penalty which rose by about $25 a day. After that, “You owed them your fucking life.”

- Excerpt from “The Garden”, Chapter Three of Jersey Boy: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula by Adeyinka Makinde published by iUniverse in 2010.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2018)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Christmas in the "City of a Thousand Spires": Prague (2017)


An enriching Christmas holiday in the Bohemian city of Prague which is rich in culture, architecture and history.

The “City of a Thousand Spires” is immersed in the legend of Wenceslas (or Vaclav the Good), the martyred Duke of Bohemia and exhibits a distinct Christmas culture that reflects its Central European heritage.

It has a charisma of its own.

There is the mystique of the Charles Bridge and the powerful life force of the River Vlatava, which was of course immortalised by the composer Bedrich Smetana. In the Old Town is the Astronomical clock and a monument dedicated to Jan Hus, the religious leader whose refusal at the Council of Constance to renounce his ideas concerning reformation of the Catholic Church led to his being burnt at the stake as a heretic on July 6th, 1415. That form of Czech courage and stubborness is reflected in the memorials dedicated to the British-trained participants in Operation Anthropoid, the successful mission of assassinating Reinhard Heydrich, the Acting Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia in 1942.

The miniature street known as Golden Lane encompasses the magic of Prague while the Hradcany complex - home of the Bohemian kings, presidents, Communist Party dictators, and, for a brief historical interlude, Nazi Reich Protectors of Bohemia and Moravia- exemplifies the grandeur of Prague and its towering achievements in architecture.

Jewish culture and heritage is found in the Jesofov (or Jewish Quarter) where the Old Jewish Cemetery is, and the treasures and the tragedies of European Jewry are encapsulated respectively in the Spanish and Pinkas Synagogues.

The distinctiveness of a Czech Christmas was underscored by the tradition of celebrating Christmas Eve as Christmas Day. The Christmas Markets were quaintly attractive and the native Czech dishes exotic and filling.

A great city to visit and highly recommended.




















© Adeyinka Makinde (2017)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.


Friday, 29 December 2017

Operation Anthropoid: Prague's Memorials to Heydrich's Assassins

A memorial plaque featuring the images of a paratrooper and a priest on an outside wall of St. Cyril and Methodius Church in Prague [PHOTO: Adeyinka Makinde]

In a society that lives by moral rules, assassination cannot be morally justified. But when a nation is enslaved by murderers and fanatics, assassination may be the only means of destroying evil. - Frantisek Moravec, wartime head of Czechoslovakian military intelligence.

The 1942 assassination of Nazi figure Reinhard Heydrich in Prague while he was acting Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia is often described as one of the most daring missions of the Second World War. Conceived in Britain and executed in Prague by Czechoslovakian commandos, Operation Anthropoid was the work of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), the so-called ‘Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’, that had been charged by Prime Minister Winston Churchill with the responsibility for setting Nazi-occupied Europe “ablaze”.

Espionage and sabotage was to be its raison d’etre.

But killing a high-level official such as Heydrich was not an easy decision to make. Indeed, both Allied and Axis forces refrained from specifically targeting chiefs of state for assassination. The killing of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto by the United States is the only other comparable act, although a successful completion of Operation Flipper by British commandos which had the unstated aim of killing Field Marshal Erwin Rommel would have rivaled that and the Heydrich action.

The key factor which would have exercised the minds of the decision-makers, among them the president of the Czechoslovakian government-in-exile, Edvard Benes, was the inevitable reprisals that would follow.

The Nazis had shown no compunction in employing brutal methods of retaliation aimed at civilian populations in response to partisan acts of sabotage and insurrection, and this would be true in the aftermath of Heydrich’s death. The destruction of the village of Lidice amply testified to this. The fate of Roman civilians in the Ardeatine caves after an ambush of an SS police regiment on Via Rasella in 1944 would later provide a reminder of this form of bloodlust.

Reprisals of this nature, although contrary to existing rules of international law, were part of the culture of fascism. The Italian Blackshirts insisted on the standard three-day orgy of bloody revenge against defenceless civilians in Addis Ababa following the assassination attempt by insurgents on the Mussolini’s viceroy, Rudolfo Graziani.

But the British were insistent that the mission be carried out and the exiled Czechoslovak leadership, conscious of the largely successful pacification of the Czechlands by Heydrich’s ‘carrot and stick’ methods, and keen to be seen to be pro-actively contributing to the resistance effort, were firmly for striking at the reichsprotektor.

Both Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik, the former an ethnic Czech and the latter of Slovakian origin were selected because of their impressive credentials as soldiers. Both had been decorated for bravery during the Battle for France. They were warned that they were unlikely to survive the mission, but accepted without hesitation.

As is the case with special forces commandos, they were chosen because of their intelligence and ability to think on their feet: Their primary order was to kill Heydrich, but it was left to them to formulate a plan of action. After several months of planning, they devised it. They noted the lightly protected Heydrich’s unvaried route into Prague involved traveling through Kobylisy in the city’s northern suburbs where a sharp bend forced Heydrich’s chauffeur to slow down. At this point, Gabcik was to rush onto the street and aim for Heydrich with a Sten sub-machine gun. A nearby tram stop would provide suitable cover while they waited for the signal of a third soldier, Josef Valcik.

When Heydrich’s Mercedes Benz convertible finally approached the bend, Gabcik positioned himself in front of the car but found his gun jammed. After ordering his driver to stop, Heydrich raised himself to full height in the car and aimed his pistol at Gabcik. But Kubis threw a bomb at the car, a modified anti-tank grenade, which exploded and incapacitated Heydrich.

Both men fled the scene in different directions.

They did so under the impression that they had failed. However, Heydrich, who had been rushed to the nearby Bukova Hospital, succumbed eight days later to the septicaemia caused by shrapnel, seat-spring splinters and fragments of the horse-hair used to cushion the car’s upholstery.

Gabcik, Kubis, Valcik and four other paratroopers eventually found refuge in the crypt of the St. Cyril and Methodius church on Resslova Street in the New Town part of Prague. But the hideaway was discovered by the Gestapo from a trail of leads provided a Karel Kurda, a fellow paratrooper who lost his nerve and opted to collect the 10 million Krona-reward offered by the German authorities.

The church was surrounded by hundreds of SS troops and when it was eventually stormed, three of the paratroopers, including Kubis, who were on night watch on the choir loft, engaged the Germans in a two-hour gun battle that left them dead.

The German attempts to enter the crypt were futile as were Kurda’s efforts to make them give up. They made good on their retort that they would never surrender by ending their lives with their last bullets and poison.

Although the story was retold in a number of books and films such as Atentat (1964) and Operation Daybreak (1975) provided rousing reconstructions of the events including the use of the site of the assassination and the church, it is only in recent years that memorials have been officially sanctioned. The crypt of the church now functions as a museum, the National Memorial to the Heroes of the Heydrich Terror, while the site of the ambush now has a plaque and a statue.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2017)


Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.


Sunday, 10 December 2017

Commentary: Rigondeaux Gave Away His Heart

Vasyl Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux

Last night’s clash between Ukrainian world super-featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux, the Cuban-born super-bantamweight champion was a long awaited date of this year’s boxing calendar. Although it was not contracted as a “catchweight” contest so as to narrow the disparities in both men’s weights, it was eagerly anticipated by aficionados of the fight game because they are two of the greatest amateur boxers in recent history. Each man won two consecutive Olympic gold medals and each had well over 300 amateur contests with Lomachenko losing only once and Rigondeaux on twelve occasions. So while ever mindful of the boxing maxim that a “Good big ‘un always beats a good little ‘un”, many felt that the level of skill possessed by the smaller man would diminish the significance of weight and make it an even contest of sorts. However, what transpired was a stunningly one-sided contest which ended with Rigondeaux quitting on his stool.

I thought that many ‘neutral’ people would be for Guillermo Rigondeaux in the lead up to his clash with Vasyl Lomachenko. What not to root for in a man who was punished for attempting to defect from Castro’s Cuba only to make good his escape in a subsequent effort and begin a professional career in the United States?

But in America, he fell foul of his despotic promoter Bob Arum, and even though he became a multiple champion, he was avoided by scared opponents who used the innovative excuse that he was “too boring”. Getting on in age and acutely aware of the need for a payday, Rigondeaux chased Lomachenko for a marketable fight between two of the most talented figures in the history of amateur boxing who as professionals are feared champions.

However, instead of a catchweight contest, Lomachenko -guided by a shrewd and unforgiving Arum- insisted that Rigondeaux jump two weight divisions and recieve the lower end of the available purse monies: Rigondeaux is reputed to have earned $400,000 to Lomachenko’s $1.5 million. To compound things, the WBA announced that Rigondeaux would lose his title if he lost to Lomachenko even though the fight was not scheduled for that weight.

As Virgil Hunter, the trainer of Andre Ward, said, “it’s borderline criminal”.

This is why I would have expected most to have been rooting for “Rigo”. While the odds continued to be stacked against him, many felt that by fighting at his efficient weight and utilising his slick skills, Rigondeaux might have had enough to neutralise Lomchenko’s split-second changes in ‘angles’ with his own brand of athletic agility and that his explosive one-hit power could be as effective against a bigger opponent.

Yet, while the disadvantages of weight, age, as well as Rigondeaux’s comparative lack of bouts over the past few years must be factored in to explain his poor showing,  many onlookers are convinced that Lomachenko’s unique brand of boxing skills which utilises a complex geometry of foot movement and a high punch rate was the decisive factor in Rigondeaux’s physical and psychological unravelling. He succeeded in forcing Rigondeaux to quit much in the manner that Sugar Ray Leonard outboxed Roberto Duran into saying the notorious words: “No Mas”. It is unlikely that any x-ray slides or photographs purporting to corroborate Rigondeaux’s alleged hand injury would displace this opinion.

Teddy Brenner, a legendary matchmaker at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, once said of the great Nigerian boxer Dick Tiger as he fought in his twilight years having moved up to the light heavyweight division: “He always gives away height, weight and reach, but he never gives away heart”.

I thought that was going to be a fitting accolade to Rigondeaux’s challenge to Lomachenko, but apart from the fact that Rigondeaux had a reach advantage over his taller, heavier opponent, it appears that Lomachenko took away his heart.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2017)


Adeyinka Makinde is the author of DICK TIGER: The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal and JERSEY BOY: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula

Saturday, 25 November 2017

About Yukio Mishima

Yukio Mishima speaking to an audience of Japanese soldiers at Ichigaya Barracks Tokyo on November 25, 1970.

It is hard to imagine a more surreal scenario than one where a globally famous writer stages an abortive coup d’etat at a military barracks before committing suicide. Perhaps Wole Soyinka’s infiltrating of a Nigerian television station where at gunpoint he ordered a newscaster to stop the announcing of the results of a fraudulently contested election in the mid-1960s comes a distant second (Soyinka was later arrested and charged, but acquitted on a technicality). But by ceremonially disembowelling himself prior to being decapitated, Yukio Mishima had to many modern-thinking and Westernised Japanese seemingly turned the clock back to the Middle Ages.

His actions on November the 25th, 1970 remain incomprehensible to his countrymen.

Where some saw elements of “psychotic craziness” others could discern a carefully choreographed piece of theatre, a last act in the life of a man who was an eccentric but also a brilliant artist. He was a force of literary creativity and public controversy.

He lived in a state of perpetual contradiction.

A man imbued with a love of Japan’s rich heritage and proud of his Samurai ancestry, he was also intensely drawn to the Western world to which he often travelled and from where he relished the acclaim heaped on him. He even lived in an Italianate villa in Tokyo. He was married with two children but was apparently homosexual. And while he often projected the ambiance of a deep-thinking intellectual, he had a fascination with swords and was obsessed with bodybuilding and physical culture. As a boy he had been thin and weak, but later while living amid the trappings of upper middle class gentility, he found an outlet for a yearning to be something of a ruffian gangster, a role he played in cameo roles in films.

Mishima’s love of many things Western did not extend to wholeheartedly embracing Western notions of liberal democracy. He was decidedly right-wing and subscribed to to the ideology of Emperor worship, albeit that he alienated many Japanese monarchists when he denounced Emperor Hirohito for renouncing his claim to divinity. He memorialised what he considered to be the martyrs of the Niniroku Jiken or ‘February 26 Incident’, an abortive coup in 1936 that had been orchestrated by Imperial Japanese soldiers belonging to the Kodo-ha faction which aimed to purge what they perceived to be the corruption in the Japanese political and business classes in order to return Japan to a pre-industrialised and pre-westernised state that would be run along totalitarian lines by the Emperor with the assistance of a bakufu or military government.

Mishima merged his political thinking with his enduring thoughts of death in a short movie in which he starred in 1966 titled Yukoku (‘Patriotism’). In it, he played an army officer linked to the failed plot of February 1936 who commits seppuku.

It was something of a rehearsal of his macabre ending.

In his later years, Mishima would form a private militia he called the Tatenokai or Shield Society. It is from this group of young followers that he recruited the men who would accompany him to the Ichigaya barracks where under the pretense of paying a courtesy call to the commandant, would take him hostage and threaten to kill him unless he was allowed to give a speech to the soldiers in the main courtyard of the establishment.

The soldiers cursed him and mocked him as he enjoined them to rebel and free Japan from what he argued were the shackles of American military and cultural domination. They were, he chided, “American mercenaries” in a Japan that had “no spiritual foundation”.  

It was a fruitless plea and one which most believe Mishima knew was doomed to fail. He had had a death wish, it is widely believed, since his youth when he had feigned sickness in order to avoid being drafted into the Tokubetsu Kogekitai, the air corps of the Imperial Japanese Navy, which in the latter part of the Pacific War employed a strategy of suicidal combat. The guilt of not enlisting as a Kamikaze and perishing honourably in flames haunted him all his life. Some argue that he realised that he had reached his creative peak as a writer and could see no future on earth. He had, after all, been in the running to become Japan’s first Nobel Laureate in literature before he had stepped aside to make way for his mentor Yasunari Kawabata. Others point to writing where he explicitly declared that having built a powerful-looking body, he would not yield voluntarily to the degenerative force of the natural ageing process.

“The body”, he had written in Sun and Steel (1968), “is doomed to decay, just like the complicated motor of a car. I for one do not, will not, accept such a doom. This means that I do not accept the course of Nature. I know that I am going against Nature. I know that I am forcing my body onto the most destructive path of all.”

In death, it is believed that he formed a lover’s pact, taking his male lover, Masakatsu Morita with him into the afterlife.

His call from the balcony at Ichigaya barracks while dressed in his military tunic, for Japan to reclaim its martial past while ostensibly attempting to rouse the Japanese military to armed rebellion was in the final analysis a ruse. It served as cover for the fulfillment of a life-long obsession with seppuku. That he believed it would offer vindication of his life and the values he propagated is clear in the words of an interview he once gave during which he differentiated between the Western and Japanese concepts of suicide:

“Sometimes,” Mishima insisted, “Harakiri makes you win.”

© Adeyinka Makinde (2017)


Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.


Saturday, 11 November 2017

Wilder-Stiverne: A Tale of Collusion and Chaos

Deontay Wilder bundled away from the prone Bermane Stiverne by referee Arthur Mercante (PHOTO: Getty Images)

The outcome of the recent WBC world heavyweight title bout between Deontay Wilder and his challenger Bermane Stiverne provided the drama of a first round knockout that has provided the impetus for a ratcheting up of interest in a unification bout between Wilder and Anthony Joshua, the holder of the WBA and IBF versions. But the fight, as well as providing a reminder of the perpetually fractured nature of world championship boxing, also raised a number of disquieting issues. First was the legitimacy of Stiverne’s entitlement to challenge for Wilder’s title. Second was the disgraceful physical state of the challenger who weighed in at 254 pounds. Thirdly, is the question of whether on his thirty-ninth appearance in the ring, Wilder’s level of skill is befitting of one bearing the mantle of a world champion. Finally, was the quality of officiating. Lost in the post-fight inquest was an appropriate level of scrutiny of Arthur Mercante Jr’s all too often chaotic style in the ring.

Very few, if any, among the followers of the sport of boxing were overjoyed at the prospect of Bermane Stiverne’s challenge to Deontay Wilder for the latter’s version of the world heavyweight title. In the first instance, Stiverne, the 39-year-old Haitian-Canadian from whom Wilder had won the title in 2015, had been a replacement for the Cuban Luis Ortiz, whose eagerly anticipated clash with Wilder had been derailed by a positive doping test. But before that, aficionados of the sport had expressed concern about Stiverne’s designation as the number one contender for Wilder’s World Boxing Council title given Stiverne’s relative inactivity during the period that had elapsed since his loss to Wilder.

That Stiverne, who had only fought once against journeyman fighter Derric Rossy in November of 2015, could maintain his mandatory status was almost certainly due to the influence of his manager, Don King. King had a close and enduring relationship with the late Jose Sulaiman, the longstanding president of the WBC who was the father of the current president Mauricio Sulaiman. The King-WBC ‘special relationship’ is one that appears to be transgenerational.

The original relationship with Sulaiman Snr was much derided by journalists, rival promoters and managers of fighters who were opponents of Don King-controlled boxers. The late Jack Newfield once lamented that Sulaiman “became more King’s junior partner than his independent regulator.”

While the grip King once had on heavyweight boxing has long been weakened to one that is largely insignificant, many with memories of the King-Sulaiman Snr. ‘partnership’ would be forgiven for their angst at the apparent special treatment given to a contemporary Don King fighter.

Many fans were irritated at the initial resistance shown by Stiverne to take stand-aside money to pave the way for the intended fight between Wilder and Ortiz. The overwhelming consensus was that Stiverne had been beaten comprehensively on points and there was no interest in seeing both men fight again.

Despite Stiverne’s pre-fight threat that he would “kill” Wilder, it was apparent that he was an unworthy challenger given his pot-bellied and generally out-of-conditioned appearance. Indeed, for some, Stiverne’s poorly conditioned frame and lacklustre performance were redolent of the era of overweight and out-of-condition heavyweights of the late 1970s and 1980s, an era dominated by King.

Wilder’s blow-out of Stiverne earned him praise from some quarters including Mauricio Sulaiman who claimed that he had not seen a heavyweight “throw a jab with such sharpness and precision since Larry Holmes.” Others are not so convinced about the level of his ringcraft, contending that Wilder’s modus operandi of throwing his jab low, seemingly from the hip, would be courting disaster against a better class of heavyweight such as Anthony Joshua. And while one of Wilder’s knockdown punches, a straight right that pierced the guard of Stiverne, caught the eye, his overly excited finish composed of wild swinging blows underlined what to some is a champion who remains crude and unlettered in the finer aspects of the sport. The ‘punch stats’ seemingly bear this out: Wilder landed 15 out of 39 punches thrown during the bout.

There are complaints that while Joshua’s title win over Charles Martin was received with caution because he had defeated a decidedly mediocre opponent, Wilder has been serenaded for dispatching a hapless and inept excuse for an ex-champion.

Apart from questions associated with the making of the fight and the quality of the fight -at least in so far as the competence of Stiverne was concerned, is the performance by referee Arthur Mercante Jr.

It was not merely that Mercante’s longstanding habit of whistling at boxers when signalling for them to resume fighting infringes fundamental notions of professionalism and respect for the combatants, he clearly breached a number of rules and conventions governing the officiating of bouts in the jurisdiction of New York State.

For instance, Mercante gave Stiverne a mandatory count of nine after the first knockdown, and in the succeeding one, he gave the fighter a mandatory ‘seven count’. Both are of course deviations from the rule of giving a fighter a mandatory count of eight.

Mercante is no stranger to playing roughshod with both the letter and the spirit of the rules of the game. In 2010, he ignored the pleas of Yuri Foreman’s corner to have the fight stopped and admonished an inspector of the New York State Athletic Commission who had begun to climb the steps to the ring in the eighth round, the round before he stopped the bout. Inspectors have the right to implore a referee to stop a fight.

The ‘innovation’ of a flexible count was not the only infraction.

The standard of practice promoted by the New York State Athletic Commission is that after a knockdown, the downed fighter once upright, at the behest of the referee is expected to take a step forward followed by a step to the side. But Mercante failed to insist that Stiverne take a step to the side. Further, he neglected to keep a firm control on Wilder’s movements after the knockdowns while he was administering the count.

The underlying current of chaos was exemplified by the incident before the final knockdown when Stiverne collided with him as Mercante stood near the ring ropes. This arguably may have delayed Stiverne’s descent and allowed Wilder to connect with more punches than he otherwise would have. In any case, when stopping the fight, Mercante’s act of grabbing Wilder and grappling with him after he was already turned away from the prone Stiverne was unnecessarily theatrical.

Mercante’s longevity in the topflight continues to mystify many who bemoan the controversies and even tragedies that have been associated with poor levels of refereeing - this all the more galling when there is a pool of highly professional officials available, including the veteran Ron Lipton whose talents have been remarkably underused by the authorities in New York.

At a time when boxing is facing competition from the genre of mixed martial arts, the Wilder-Stiverne bout highlights the disquieting features attendant to the sport that only serve to undermine it: shady behind-the-scenes administration by the sanctioning bodies in collusion with promoters, which result in mismatches that demean the prestige of bouts offered to the public as being between combatants at the pinnacle of the sport. That, as well as the evident favouritism shown to certain referees whose levels of competence and professionalism do not stand the test of objective evaluation.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2017)

Adeyinka Makinde is the author of Dick Tiger: The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal and Jersey Boy: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula.